Making the Most of Borrowed Time at the YMCA

Veronica Sanchez poses with her husband and two small children

“Statistically, I know I’m on borrowed time, and I want to spend as much time with my kids as I can. But with the side effects of my medication, there aren’t many places where that is possible,” says Veronica Sanchez, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer in August 2017 and given a prognosis of eight to 12 months. 

A nurse practitioner, Veronica and her husband, Joseph Sirianni, a special education teacher, have two children, Sebastian, 7, and Gabriela, 3. With Veronica’s diagnosis of lung cancer, the family needed to move to a one-story home because the stairs in their two-story home were too much for Veronica, who takes chemotherapy medication every day and manages extreme exhaustion as a result. 

After renting and settling into a one-story home, the Sirianni-Sanchez family traveled to Puerto Rico to visit Veronica’s family. When they returned home to the States, they found their rented house flooded, losing nearly 40% of their belongings. The moisture and mold made it impossible for Veronica to live there and the family found themselves moving from house to house, staying with friends and neighbors, until finally finding another home they could rent. Unfortunately, in the process, Veronica also lost her job when the doctor she was working for part-time retired and closed his practice last December. 

Blessings at every turn

Through it all, Veronica hasn’t lost sight of what is important, and says she is grateful because “there have been blessings at every turn.” She counts the Upper Main Line YMCA, which the family recently joined, as one of those blessings. 

“We have tried to do everything ourselves. But with being unemployed since December and the cost of my medication, it’s not easy financially. When I came into the Y, it was so nice to feel that it wasn’t wrong to ask for help. Everyone has made us feel as though we are friends they want to help.”

A study by the American Journal of Medicine found that 42% of new cancer patients or their families lost their life savings in two years because of treatment. The average amount a cancer patient or their family lost was more than $92,000.

Veronica and her family received a reduced rate on their YMCA membership through the YMCA’s financial assistance program, which is funded by donations. This made it possible for the Sirianni-Sanchez family to join the YMCA.

Happier Days at the YMCA

Now, Veronica and her children often spend their days at the Upper Main Line YMCA (UMLY). “When you’re a mom, getting up in the morning is not an option. The Y has given me a chance to do something for my children and they are so happy when we are together. My kids are little fishes and love the water,” says Veronica, who often brings her kids to swim in the pool at UMLY. The zero entry pool is also a blessing for her, as the cancer causes her lungs to constrict, but the heat from the pool helps her to breathe.

When the side effects of Veronica’s medication kick in, and she needs time on her own to manage them, she can then put Sebastian and Gabriela in Child Watch, a babysitting service available for YMCA members at no additional cost. “I racked my brain trying to find a place like this to take the kids. It’s really hard to find a place like UMLY where all this is possible,” she says. Veronica is also excited for her kids to have the opportunity to enroll in swim lessons and dance classes at UMLY.

Why Financial Assistance Exists

Many assume that little financial need exists in Chester County, but the reality is that many of our neighbors are just one paycheck away from a financial crisis. Both Veronica and her husband had good jobs and work hard, but Veronica’s cancer diagnosis, changed everything.

When you donate to the YMCA’s financial assistance program, you help families like the Sirianni-Sanchezs. You help a mom or dad who suddenly becomes a single parent afford quality childcare for their children and you put their mind at ease. You give seniors living on a fixed income the opportunity to join the Y and build new friendships rather than living in loneliness. Any donation you make to the YMCA of Greater Brandywine stays here in Chester County to help those facing challenges who may need a little extra support.


When you donate to the Y, you are giving thousands in your community the opportunity to thrive. Click here to make a donation. 



Category: Y Stories